It's important to know how to write a well-crafted business letter. If you're applying for a job, requesting a meeting or sending a proposal, you want to make sure you've used the correct business letter format and that your letter is error-free and clearly written. You also want to make sure it reaches the correct person. One good way to do this is to add an "attention line" to your letter.
Where Does the Attention Line Go?
A formal business letter starts with your name and address in the top left corner, then the date and then the address of the recipient. If you decide to include an attention line, insert it right after the second address.
An attention line is different than a subject line. An attention line directs the letter to a recipient by either using their full name or their title. It makes the most sense to use an attention line when you know only the recipient's title and not their full name.
A subject line, on the other hand, declares the intent of the letter. Occasionally these are useful if you don't know the recipient's name or title. Then you might use a subject line such as, Subject: Letter of application for a marketing intern.
Example of an Attention Line
The layout for a business letter with an attention line looks like this:
Your phone number
Attention: Director of Marketing
The letter would follow.
When You Need an Attention Line
There are a few reasons why an attention line is a good idea for a business letter.
- You don't know the name of the person who should receive the letter but you do know his or her title. In this case, the attention line would contain only the title. Attention: Director of Marketing
- You want the letter delivered to a certain person in a company.
- You want the letter to reach the recipient more quickly.
When an Attention Line is Unnecessary
Attention lines are most useful if you don't know the name of the person who should receive your letter. Then it makes sense to write Attention: Director of Marketing. It would look silly to write Dear Director of Marketing. An attention line makes more sense when using the title alone.
When you know the recipient's full name and title, it is standard to omit the attention line and just include their name and title both in the company's address line and in the salutation.
Your name and address
Director of Marketing
Name and address of the company
Dear Mr. Botts:
Only use attention lines when necessary. They aren't standard practice but can work well if you don't know a recipient's name but do know their title.
Heather Skyler is a business journalist and editor who has written for wide variety of publications, including Newsweek.com, The New York Times and Delta's SKY magazine. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Miami University and a master's degree in writing from the University of Washington in Seattle. Before writing for a variety of publications, she taught business writing in Seattle.